COOL TIPS: How to Never Lose Anything Again

Key finders, trackers and locators are great for finding things, but they are surprisingly hard to find.  In the 21st Century, trackers aren’t people who search out cattle rustlers.  Instead, they are small RFID or Bluetooth-based devices that send and receive signals.  Unless you have a photographic memory, you probably need a tracker.

Also known as “key finders” or “locators”, a tracker helps you find just about anything other than a spouse — you might try dating sites for that elusive find.    If you have lost your car keys, misplaced your smartphone, need someone to be alerted or have to find an elusive pet or child, these trackers may be just the trick for you.

They are getting cheaper and more useful as the technology develops.  Some are highly specialized trackers, such as those used in a hospital or medical care setting, as a way to call a nurse or other healthcare professional. They work as a short range pager system to alert the professional that they are needed by a colleague or a high needs patient.  Some are better adapted to be for used on vacation to ensure that no important items are lost in transit. They attach to a smartphone, cameras, wallets, passports, laptops, or other important items for easy locating.  And, of course, pet and child safety becomes far more possible with trackers built into clothing or collars.

But finding a tracker is not as easy a task as you might think.  (Predictably, you can’t use a tracker to help you select a tracker to buy…..even though that would be nice).   There are a large number of trackers on the market and they are all somewhat different.   Here are the criteria that we use to determine which trackers work best for us:

Selection Criteria for Trackers

Price:  Trackers should generally run about $15-20 each.   They are sometimes on sale for $10 each in packages of two-four.   They are also often bundled with home personal assistants  (Alexa/Google/Apple/Cortana).

Frequency Used:  More and more trackers are bluetooth-based.    We recommend them because hey operate by using an app on your smartphone. The tag pairs with the Bluetooth capabilities on your phone so if you lose your keys, you simply open the app, press a button, and listen for the beeps.

Compatibility:   Trackers generally work with one or two smart home systems, but we’ve not found one that works for all of them.  So should choose trackers that communicate either directly or via third-party apps with your smart home personal assistants.

Battery Replacement:   A few trackers allow you to replace the batteries.  This is handy if you choose to use that tracker for more than a year.   However, battery replacement necessitates slightly larger bodies, so if you need very small trackers, you’ll likely not be able to replace their batteries. Non-replaceable batteries should last a year and should include a discount replacement program for when your device’s battery dies.

Range:  Most trackers have a range of 100-300 feet.  The actual range is likely  less than what key finder makers advertise because walls, doors and other structures can interfere with signals.

Alarm Sound: Check the decibel rating for the key finder. You’ll want a good loud signal of at least 80 to 85 decibels so that you can hear your key finder over any ambient noise.

App Features: Use online app stores to see feedback on the companion app for each key finder.

Two-Way Findings: Consider key finders that have two-way finding features, where you can press a button on the key finder to track down your phone. Some key finders also offer digital leash features, where your phone will get an alert if your keys are ever out of range.

 

Trackers From Which to Choose

A number of trackers are on the market.  Some of these include:  Pebblebee, Tile, Key Ringer, Chipolo, Pixie, TrackR, iTrack, Key Buddy, XY3, Esky, Vibez and Nonda.      So choosing a tracker is a daunting task.   Tile revolutionized the key finder market when they released their first RFID hardware in 2014, and have sold more than four million units in just a couple of years.  Tile may be among the most commonly purchased tracker manufacturer, but they are hardly the only one. Amazon, alone, offers devices from over 60 different tracker manufacturers.

Ultimately, you may choose to buy a tracker based upon the retailer from whom you buy it.  Amazon, Costco, Best Buy, Walmart and other retailers generally stand behind the trackers they sell.    When you are struggling to choose a tracker brand, you may wish to rely upon the retailer to make the most secure selection.

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